For those of you who have not been paying attention, Intellectual Ventures is remaking the patent business. They have gradually become less secretive -- having raised $5 billion to acquire over 30,000 patents since 2000, they are having a huge effect, much of it yet to be seen, and are still viewed with awe by some, and fear by others. Their story has been covered extensively in the press.
As an inventor, and a believer in what technology can enable, I think they are changing things very much for the better.
Some of my history as an inventor -- my twelve year struggle from conception to monetization of my first patented invention -- was outlined in a 2008 blog post. That did not get into how I partnered with others to develop my patents, leading to a sale for $35 million. I faced most of the challenges of the lone inventor, unable to get large companies to a reasonable deal without litigation, even with professional partners to lead and fund the effort. I always viewed litigation as a very unpleasant and wasteful prospect, and two years into a hugely expensive and draining case (even with other people's money), I was eager to end it as soon as possible.
That is where the market came to the rescue. The IV case study will give more details, but, in brief, I saw them change the game from a brutal, zero-sum battle (attractive only to lawyers) to a win-win business proposition that was beneficial to all. They brought unique insight into the market forces, great cleverness in structuring deals that I understand to have been first of their kind, and mastery in moving the warring sides to a deal quickly, overcoming many stumbling blocks.
The deal provided my company, Teleshuttle, with the resources to let me focus on my work as an inventor, which is the work I love and do best.*
I look forward to seeing the story of this landmark deal on IV's Web site, and to IV's contribution to developing the market becoming more widely known and understood. IV deserves credit for leading the way toward a world in which invention is more sensibly valued, rewarded, and stimulated -- to make life better for all of us.
*For example, there is my current work on the FairPay pricing process, described extensively on this blog: I have patent filings related to this, but they may or may not ever have any value. Nevertheless, because some of my patents have brought in funds, I can develop FairPay essentially as a pro-bono project, just because I think it is an idea the world will benefit from.
There is a parallel here: Just as IV found a way to arrange a fair value exchange between me as innovator and those who benefit from my ideas, I put forth FairPay as a way to arrange a fair value exchange between those who create content/services and those who benefit from that.